Two psych rock superstars at the height of their fame, both notorious for epic drug and alcohol consumption, and neither particularly suited to the other’s sensibility, Jim Morrison and Jimmy Hendrix might have been an oddly consonant musical pairing, or not. Morrison, the egomaniac, looked inward, mining his dark fantasies for material. Hendrix, the introvert, ventured into the reaches of outer space in his expansive imagination.
What might come of a musical meeting? We know only what transpired one night at Manhattan's Scene Club in 1968, and let’s just say it didn’t go particularly well. It seems unfair to lob criticism at a bootlegged, one-off, improvised performance. But that hasn’t stopped critics from doing so. The recording has appeared under several names, including Sky High, Bleeding Heart, Morrison/Hendrix/Winter (under the assumption Johnny Winter played on it), and as the very resonantly titled Woke up this morning and found myself dead.
Eventually, some anonymous distributer settled on Morrison’s Lament, “an apt title,” Ron Kretsch writes at Dangerous Minds, “if by ‘lament’ one means ‘drunken, formless discharge of inane profanities.” Morrison, it seems, invited himself onstage, and Hendrix, who made the tape himself, seems not to mind the intrusion. At one point, you can hear him tell the Doors’ singer to “use the recording mic.” Some bootlegs credit Morrison for the harmonica playing, while others credit Lester Chambers.
Hendrix starts with his go-to blues jam, “Red House.” He’s backed—depending on which liner notes you read—by either Band of Gypsys’ drummer Buddy Miles or McCoy’s drummer Randy Zehringer. Rick Derringer may have played rhythm guitar. Johnny Winter reportedly denied having been there, but the Scene Club was owned by his manager, Steve Paul. “Jimi was a frequent visitor here,” writes Hendrix biographer Tony Brown in the notes for a 1980 copy of the session. “He loved he atmosphere and also loved to jam and as he always had a tape machine on hand, that night was captured forever.”
That's a very mixed blessing. “Some of the tracks kinda kick ass,” writes Kretsch, including the effortlessly brilliant “Red House” Hendrix and band play in the first six minutes or so at the top. Then Morrison steps onstage and begins to howl—sounding like a random inebriated audience member who's lost all inhibition, instead of the eerily cool singer of “Riders on the Storm.” Maybe there’s good reason to hear Morrison bellowing “save me, woman!” as a serious cry for help.
But there’s little reason to take this performance seriously. If that still leaves you wondering—what might have resulted from a sober, well-rehearsed session between these two?—you’ll have to make-do with the mashup above, which convincingly combines Morrison’s “Riders on the Storm” vocals with Hendrix’s “Hey Joe” playing. Listen at least until the solo at around 1:20 to hear Ray Manzarek's organ trickle in. Now that would have been a great collaboration. If you every come across any bootlegged Manzarek and Hendrix jams, send them our way....
Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Washington, DC. Follow him @jdmagness.